Trump May Have Committed a Federal Crime By Telling NFL Team Owners to Fire Protesting Players

Trump May Have Committed a Federal Crime By Telling NFL Team Owners to Fire Protesting Players

President Trump’s recent remarks suggesting NFL team owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem could be a federal crime.

18 U.S. Code § 227 stipulates that any federal employee, member of Congress, or member of the executive branch is forbidden from using their position within the federal government to influence the employment decisions of a private business, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation. The penalty for doing so could result in fines and incarceration of up to 15 years, and anyone who is found guilty of violating that law could even be disqualified from holding office:

(a)Whoever, being a covered government person, with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity—

(1) takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act, or

(2) influences or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
It’s worth noting that U.S. Code specifies that no federal employee is exempt from the law, including the President of the United States. The “covered government person” language in the beginning of the statute is defined as any U.S. Representative, Senator, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, along with any staffers of federal legislators. The President and Vice President, along with employees of the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission and their respective staff are also subject to the law.

During a rally on Thursday night, in which President Trump was stumping for Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama), Trump suggested that any NFL team owner that fired a player who knelt during the national anthem would become “the most popular person in this country.”

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump said during the speech.

Despite blowback from NFL teams, players, and even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Trump doubled down on his statements on his verified Twitter account.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Trump tweeted.

Five hours following those tweets, Trump issued a response to Commissioner Goodell’s statements praising NFL players who stepped up for hurricane relief efforts, saying the NFL commissioner was “trying to justify the total disrespect of certain players,” adding “Tell them to stand!”

Because NFL teams are private businesses owned by individual citizens (with the exception of the Green Bay Packers), President Trump’s calls for team owners to fire players kneeling during the national anthem could be construed as a violation of the aforementioned law. As of this writing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was appointed to his position by President Trump, has yet to file any charges against the president for violating 18 U.S. Code § 227.

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